I didn't cross the threshold of actually weeping last week while reading the three-part "People Smugglers" series in this newspaper (November 14-16). But I got close. The stories cut to that place in me reserved for silent astonishment at the desperate conditions people live through - conditions so remote from my life of relative comfort. It's a place in my heart reached way too often, but it is a compassionate place.
Good reporting should compel compassion. But even with the best will in the world, one can still ask oneself, what can I do with all that compassion? How can I help refugees, fleeing from oppression or poverty, who choose such a dangerous means for escape? Can I affect the flow of events that take someone from inner despair to such desperate action? Moreover, can I do anything about the larger causes of that despair - the despotic governments, the chronic poverty?
One thing I have to offer is a willingness to keep hoping instead of weeping - to keep listening to the all-wise God for ideas that will throw light on this situation. What has come to me as I've done so is this: prayer can solve problems; it can help meet daily needs for provision and shelter and can aid the progress of political freedom. I have seen it do these things. In my own more modest challenges, I have prayed for direction from God, and I've felt it come to me first as a spiritual insight and second as a practical idea.
Sometimes in my prayers I have become deeply aware of a spiritual dimension to existence, in which there is truly no scarcity, no vulnerability. Or I have sensed something of everyone's unassailable worth as God's child. And following these insights - sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually - new ideas have come to me that have led to ways to pay bills I didn't think I could pay, to get food I needed, to have a home of my own, and to get work when it seemed scarce.
This spiritual approach to problem-solving has been practical for me for two decades. I was first introduced to it through the ideas in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." This book by Mary Baker Eddy, who also founded this newspaper, includes several dozen letters written by people who found that the ideas in the book brought God's love and power to light with such clarity that it healed them of diseases and other difficulties.
Countless people on spiritual paths have proved that prayer can solve problems. This is as true for Kurds, Kosovar Albanians, Ethiopians, and Chinese, whose yearnings to escape their conditions take them to Albania's shores for passage to Western Europe. The problems that bring anyone to so desperate a solution suggest the absence of God. But God and His saving love are never absent. And prayer that trusts in this love brings it to light in tangible ways.
Our own prayers can play a supportive role by affirming that everyone has the innate ability to recognize the divine guidance they need, in whatever circumstances they find themselves. Science and Health says, "...there is no place where God's light is not seen, since Truth, Life, and Love fill immensity and are ever-present" (pg. 504).
When compassion compels us to want to help people faced by the stark choice between desperate circumstances and desperate solutions, we can start with the conviction that everyone is guided by God's light. When it seems otherwise - seems that this light is invisible in the darkness of oppression - we can stand firm with the fact that it is present, and can be seen by everyone. Everyone has divine light within them. Everyone does know how to pray!
I trust that my own conviction of this will support someone, somewhere, to do just that - to pray and find a solution for his or her family, wherever they are.
For information on ways to help refugees, you can contact the International Organization for Migration at www.iom.int or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at www.unhcr.ch.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society